When Rosemary was a little girl walking across the fields with her family on Sunday to attend church, she never dreamed that one day she might work at this very spot.
Pevensey Place has, for the past 44 years, been a residence for cerebral palsied adults. Before that it was part of the Reichenau Mission Seminary. Since 1984 Rosemary has been employed here – with views across to the big gum tree beside the home where she was born in Nhlanhleni village. This area is peaceful, green and simply lovely.
Rosemary was an only child, but her parents always helped raise other children, so from an early age she understood the importance of community and sharing. “They liked to help others, I learnt this from them.” Rosemary’s father was a farmer and because she had no male siblings, Rosemary got to help with all the tasks – ploughing, taking the cattle out to graze, milking the cows and helping to plant and harvest the potatoes, maize and tomatoes he grew. “It was a happy life. My father taught me a lot, I knew how to do all the work.” Her mother died when she was 12, so she took on the task of cooking and looking after her father too and cared for him until he died too.
Caring and compassion is in her blood. “I started as a cleaner at Pevensey and very soon I fell in love with the residents. I was so pleased when I got the chance to train as a carer,” she says, “now they are like my children.” Rosemary’s tasks include assisting at bath time, massaging swollen feet, cutting nails, dressing, making beds and going for walks. “Sometimes we just sit and talk. Everyone loves to have attention, so we have to make time to do that.”
Rosemary enjoys the group outings as much as the residents, even though they are often a lot of hard work. She has happy memories of visiting the Royal Show, manning a watering point for the Sani2C race, and recently a trip to the seaside. “Oh, they love to swim! They won’t get out of the sea, even when they are cold,” she laughs. “Last year eight of our residents swam the Midmar Mile.”
On her days off, Rosemary still enjoys growing food beside her home and cooking her own produce – especially traditional dishes like isigwamba using the indigenous bitter leaf intshungu, and making istambo from her harvest of dried beans.
She recently bottle-fed three tiny week-old calves and dreams of owning sheep and chickens to keep her cows company. “This is a very nice community to live in. Everyone is friendly, and I know them all. I am lucky to have work so close to my home.”
Pevensey Place is very fortunate to have Rosemary an integral part of their special community too.